Mary Wilson has died. The singer and co-founder of the iconic singing group The Supremes died at home in Henderson, Nevada, at age 76, according to BBC. No cause of death has been confirmed. Wilson's death comes as a shock to her fans, as she appeared to be in good health in a video she released to celebrate Black History Month on her YouTube account on February 6. According to her family, current coronavirus restrictions mean that Wilson's funeral will be held privately, while there are plans to have a larger celebration of her life later in the year.
The Supremes were a groundbreaking group, becoming an integral part of the legendary Motown Records during the 1960s and remain the most successful female group of all time, with 12 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Wilson remained with The Supremes following the departures of original members Florence Ballard in 1967 and Diana Ross in 1970, with the group disbanding after her own exit in 1977. She went on to become a best-selling author with her 1986 autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. As a member of The Supremes, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Motown Records founder Barry Gordy released a statement paying tribute to the singer.
"I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes... The Supremes opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others... I was always proud of Mary. She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed," he wrote.
The Supremes Became International Superstars & The Face Of Motown Records
Wilson was born on March 6, 1944, in Greenville, Mississippi. She grew up in Detroit, where she first met Ballard. The duo formed The Primettes with Diana Ross and Betty McGlown in 1959, and the group joined Motown Records as The Supremes in 1961, while Wilson was still in high school. McGlown and her replacement Barbara Martin left the group during these early years, as the trio quickly found success and secured their first No. 1 hit with "Where Did Our Love Go" in 1964. By 1967, The Supremes had become one of the most famous singing groups in the world with hits including "Baby Love" and "Stop! In the Name of Love."
Ballard left the group in 1967 and was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, and the act was renamed Diana Ross and The Supremes. The group continued to put out hits as Ross became the star of the group before leaving to embark on a solo career in 1970. Following the departure of Ross, The Supremes failed to maintain their previous success. Wilson left the group in 1977 and they disbanded shortly after.
Following The Disbanding Of The Supremes, Wilson Became A Successful Author
As a solo artist, Wilson failed to reach the level of success she achieved with The Supremes. During the 1980s, she appeared in several successful musical theater productions, among them Beehive, Dancing in the Streets and Supreme Soul.
In 1986, she released her memoir Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. The book centered around the early years of The Supremes and their peak in the 1960s. The book became a national best-seller. She followed it up in 1990 when she released Supreme Faith: Someday We'll Be Together, which covered The Supremes during the 1970s.
Wilson remained a public figure well into her later years, appearing on Dancing with the Stars in 2019.
Wilson was married to Pedro Ferrer from 1974 until 1981. The couple had three children together -- Turkessa, Pedro Antonio Jr. and Rafael. Rafael tragically passed away at the age of 14 when he and Wilson were involved in a car accident.